Apax restructures media unit

The UK firm has merged the division with other sector teams in an effort to focus on digital platforms and shore up the mixed fortunes of its past investments.

Apax Partners has embarked on a major shake-up of its media division. 

The firm has decided to merge its media group with other sector teams as it seeks to move away from traditional investments and zoom in on digital opportunities. 

The group, whilst retaining a sector focus, will be seeking crossovers with other industries, a source close to the matter said. The unit’s 13 investment professionals are to join the retail and consumer team in Europe and the financial business services team in the US.

Separately, Ian Jones and Oriol Jones, the firm’s co-heads of consumer and retail, are leaving the company, according to a report in the Financial Times. The move is part of Apax’s ongoing restructuring process, which is due to see the departure of 11 investment professionals. 

Apax declined to comment on team re-organisation and people moves. 

Media was one of the five sectors singled out by the firm a decade ago, when it switched from venture investing to leveraged buyouts. Its dedicated division took an increasing interest in acquisitions incorporating an online dimension, and all seven investments made in the sector since 2007 have involved digital operations. 

These include Trader Media Group, a publisher of classifieds car ads, EMAP, a trade magazine and conference business, and Cengage Learning, an educational publisher, in 2007 and 2008. The firm also bought SouFun, a Chinese real estate website, in 2010, and then acquired Trader, a Canadian internet auto marketplace, and Dealer.com, a provider of auto marketing platforms online, the following year. 

A number of these investments have since then been struggling. The firm appointed advisers to restructure a looming $5.3 billion debt wall at Cengage Learning, after having to write down its investment in EMAP, now rebranded Top Right Group, in 2009. 

Last month, the firm cut 10 percent of its staff, bringing the total down to 99 from 110 employees. It has also closed its two Southern European operations and reduced its office space in London. 

The measures have largely been understood to be a response to the challenging environment currently facing Apax. The firm is still on the road to raise its Fund VIII, which it started marketing to investors more than two years ago. Following its December announcement that its original €9 billion target was unattainable, it is now seeking to raise close to €6 billion. 

The firm’s latest vehicle, Apax Europe VII, reached a final close in 2007 on €11.2 billion.